Red Bull Racing are expecting to announce their plans for their second driver in 2014 alongside Sebastian Vettel
after the August summer break, with team principal Christian Horner confirming that the choice is now essentially between Kimi Raikkonen
and Daniel Ricciardo.
"We want the two fastest and strongest drivers that we can put in the car for next year. I think both Daniel and Kimi would represent extremely good options," Horner said in Hungary on Thursday. "There's been some interesting applicants over the last few weeks but fundamentally we're still looking at the same drivers."
Ricciardo worked with Red Bull
during last week's Young Driver Test at Silverstone and clearly impressed the team: "Daniel, what he has demonstrated so far, has been very positive," agreed Horner, while adding that he felt it was too soon to consider Ricciardo's current Toro Rosso
team mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
"I think he [Vergne] deserves a seat in F1 and should he not be successful with the Red Bull
seat then it would make logical sense for him to continue at Toro Rosso," said Horner. "I think at this stage it's probably too early for him, which is why we chose to look at Daniel."
But if anything, it's Raikkonen who seems to be the front-runner to replace Mark Webber
in the world championship winning team next season. "Kimi's qualities speak for themselves," agreed Horner. "He has a proven track record. You can't question Kimi's credentials."
The one potential stumbling point in hiring Raikkonen might be the expected salary demands from the 2007 world champion, reputed to be one of the highest-paid drivers on the grid since he returned to F1 with Lotus after a two-year hiatus from the sport in 2010 and 2011.
But Horner said that money was not an option and that for him securing "the two fastest and strongest drivers that we can put in the car for next year" was the most important element in making the decision over Webber's replacement.
"Of course, finances are always a factor," said Horner in Hungary, before going on to explain that the money the team could make by ensuring they finish as high up in the constructor championship more than justified the expense of paying a higher driver salary.
"The difference between first and second or second and third and fourth is a significant amount in the constructors' world championship," he pointed out. "So the financial element of it, if you don't make the right decision, is going to impact you anyway if you are not scoring constructors' points. So that isn't really an element in our decision making."